Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Owning the Hatred

There are a lot of discussions out there about Scott Roeder, the man held in the murder of Dr. Tiller. Hilzoy, Friedersdorf, Balkin, MB and others bring up many good points about how to deal with a non-Muslim, domestic, Caucasian terrorist. Whether we deal with this incident within the sphere of the GWoT or as a matter of conventional criminal proceedings has become, thanks to the broad definitions applied to the former approach, a valid question.

My primary concern is less how to handle Roeder than how to handle those with whom he associated.

There is considerable evidence that Roeder was affiliated with at least one fairly militant fringe group with anti-choice sympathies (among other Conservatist positions). There is also some evidence that these groups did not entirely share Roeder's perspective, and may well have been less extreme as a whole. While they clearly were not active participants in Sunday's tragedy, they are clearly implicated as influences on Roeder's state of mind if not his precise actions.

Assuming the GWoT methodologies are appropriate, these groups with whom Roeder associated are implicated as condoning or supporting terrorism on US soil. They provided him with inflammatory literature, support - however conditional - for his views, and a forum for his extremism.

Naturally, the less-unhinged among the groups will instantly disavow Roeder and the worst of the militancy of their own group as outside the main of their organisations. That does not excuse them for failing to rein in Roeder and the others, failing to report Roeder to the authorities, or any of a hundred other steps they could have taken to prevent Tiller's murder. And those claims are already refuted by the leadership of larger organisations such as Operation Rescue - who, while denouncing the killing itself, are actively advocating nearly anything short of that to shut down clinics like the one where Dr. Tiller practised.

To those of us for whom the GWoT is an abomination of illegal, inhuman sadism, our chief difficulties have always been at once the Othering of the assailants and the perceived immediacy of the threat. Prior to September 11, 2001 there was only one successful attack by Muslim terrorists on US soil, and there have been none since, so regardless for the reasoning for such the potential of that threat is substantially reduced. Conversely, attacks on one segment of the US population by another, or on one organisation by members of another, are multiple: post-Katrina New Orleans is a prime example - and so is the murder of a physician in a church on a Sunday during worship. Consider that in each of the cases the community of victims goes far beyond the individuals directly impacted: the entire African American community of Louisiana has been effectively traumatised by the experience of New Orleans, and Dr. Tiller's entire parish was present to witness his killing and are equally affected. And in the cases of domestic activity in these cases, it is nearly impossible to Other the assailants: they look like Middle America, and the only thing differentiating them from the rest of the populace is their willingness - even eagerness - to use violence to achieve their ends.

Illustrating how the GWoT has been misused against innocent US citizens has been ineffective to date: the rage to vengeance of the early Noughties swept aside any arguments against the Great Misadventure. But these new events are hitting far closer to home: the mass killing of "liberals" at a Unitarian church, and now the "execution" of a physician at his church during Sunday services are beginning to resonate as beyond defensible to the point that GWoT-scale response may be justified.

This is how the scope of the GWoT broadens, and why it is dangerous to declare war on an intangible. I am not fond of the anti-choice movement in the least; but the fact that we can lump the violent fringe of the anti-choice community in the same "terrorist" bundle with the aparently intended targets of the GWoT shows just how dangerous the GWoT is both in concept and in execution. Tiller's murderer deserves the most thorough investigation, the most able prosecution - but also the most able defense; and the organisations that aided and abetted the party responsible for Tiller's death deserve careful scrutiny and sharp criticism, but no more than that if we even pretend to cherish the freedom of speech and assembly outlined in the Constitution. On the other hand, without a clearer illustration of just how excessive the GWoT is by definition, it may be instructive for those who advocate it to experience its application closer to home.

Of course there are threats to the peace and security of the US, both at home and abroad: these are the reasons we have law enforcement, intelligence agencies, alliances and treaties, Interpol and a host of other resources available to us. Those resources ought to be exhausted first. Failing to do so leaves us with the very real possibility that any one of us could be branded with the "threat to the Republic" language the GWoT employs and treated the same as GWoT detainees now in custody. We're supposed to be better than that.

No comments:

Post a Comment